What are meta tags?
The code for a basic meta tag:
<meta name="" content="">
Meta tags are placed in the head section of your HTML page and provide information to browsers and search engine spiders.
They can be used to control the actions of some robots and even prevent browsers from caching pages.
Meta tags can also be used to redirect a user to a different HTML document.
Their most common use is to provide page description and keyword information to search engine spiders for page ranking purposes.
New in HTML5
This meta tag should be included in the head section of each HTML5 document you create:
Want credit for your work?
Include this meta:
<meta name ="author" content="your name here">
Some of the more interesting Metas
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="5 ; url=index.html">
This code is useful when moving a website from one location to another. Proper spacing and position of quotation marks is critical. The code here would refresh the page after 5 seconds and open the index.html page.
You can use this code to test the procedure on your PC's browser. Place the code in the head section, save the page and open it in the browser. Be sure index.html is in the same directory. When using on the internet it is best to use a URL like: http://nuthersite.com/nutherpage.html
Cache Prevention code:
<meta http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache">
This code is useful when you update your pages a lot and you don't want someone loading a page that has been cached on their system. It is supposed to keep a browser from caching your page. Some browsers will ignore the code and cache anyway.
<meta name="robots" content="index,follow">
This code tells spiders to index the page and follow its links. It doesn't work with all robots. Other attributes are noindex and nofollow, which can be used in different combinations. The default is all which is the same as the code presented above.
Meta Tags Keywords and Search Engines
The 2 most widely used meta tags are the description and keywords tags:
<meta name="description" content="A brief description of this page.">
<meta name="keywords" content="brief , description , page">
This is a brief description of the pages content. The contents of the description tag are actually used by some search as the description of the page returned in search results, so try to make them informative and catchy. Keywords used in the description tag should also be found in the contents of the title tag, keywords tag and in the body of your HTML page.
Some search engines will also use the contents of the keywords tag to rank your pages. Keywords used in the keywords tag should also be found in the contents of the title tag, description tag and in the body of the document.
Common Mistakes : Keywords and Meta Tags
A common mistake in the use of keywords is using words that few people are using to find websites like yours. You can get a number one ranking for a keyword and still produce minimal traffic because no one uses that search term. To avoid this you can use the popular online keyword analyzer at wordtracker.com. You can use the free trial version as often as you like without paying a cent.
Enter a word that describes the content of your website and you're presented with a list of keywords that people have used to access similar websites on AltaVista. You also get stats on the number of searches performed and how many competing sites there are for that keyword. You're also given a number called a KEI to rate the value of the keyword as a potential traffic booster.
We've used this service and found some gold nuggets that have significantly increased our exposure.
Serious webmasters should consider the benefits of subscribing to this service. Use the free trial and form your own opinions. You can order the service by the week for about $20 and search all the major search engines and directories.
You'll also find a lot of free information on wordtracker.com about the use of keywords in your HTML pages.